WALLA WALLA - Last month, during Shelter for Freedom, a series of awareness-building fundraisers that focused on the problem of human trafficking, numerous organizations, local business, community members and students from the area's three colleges worked together to help Walla Walla Helpline Women's Shelter find a new permanent facility.
The event organizers continue to collect funds for the project and Helpline Women's Shelter hopes to be able to find a new home soon.
Invoices and donations are still being collected, however, Walla Walla University sophomore Ian Field, a music and history major who was one of several student organizers, said about 80 percent of the $30,000 goal has already been met with more funds expected during upcoming events.
"We were overwhelmingly happy with the turnout at our events," Field said. "I think we significantly increased the level of human trafficking awareness among Walla Walla University students and the community at large.
"We're still doing projects here on the WWU campus as we work to reach our goal. The money is being used to set up an endowment fund for Helpline's Women's Shelter - the only area shelter for single women," said Field, executive vice president of the Associated Students of Walla Walla University and also served as ASWWU's Shelter for Freedom project coordinator.
"It is a new shelter and this endowment fund would help to guarantee its long-term financial viability," Field continued. "Obviously a $30,000 endowment is not enough to do this, so we hope the work we've done and the energy that's been created for this cause will inspire many other people and groups around the Valley to contribute."
Dan Willms, executive director at Helpline, was grateful for the donations, but he was also realistic about the fundraising and the difficult search for a new place.
"We cannot really search out a permanent facility or make plans to construct one until we have the finances to do so," Willms said, "(Because) our goal is not only to build a night shelter, which is what we are operating now, but also have a day shelter as well."
Willms also had some practical suggestions to individuals who are interested in helping. "We can use female volunteers at the shelter, and cash donations to the Shelter for Freedom project are still very much needed and welcomed."